What shape does an improvised silent film take? The process is already under way: one actor holds out a piece of chalk to spectators as they enter, while another beckons to them enthusiastically, encouraging them to write the name of a profession on the blackboard he is holding. A signpost informs us that this will be the name of the show.
Bugiardini are a fantastically talented group: they are able to develop ‘films’ onstage that are original and coherent without the slightest trace of hesitation or confusion
Numerous suggestions are written on the board, pondered, then erased, leaving room for the next idea. This means that the last person to enter decides the name of the show. Sceptical audience members might wonder whether this final entrant is not unusually committed to writing on the board, but we must accept the premise of total spontaneity. Besides, even the most ardent improviser might indulge in this little deception in the face of audience suggestions such as ‘actuary’.
The stage is set, the play is named and the six actors of Improvvisazione Teatrale Bugiardini take to the boards in the improvised ‘film’ - in this case, The Reality TV Star. The silent film concept is quickly realised by the actors’ caricature-like gestures and expressions, and the soundtrack of improvised piano music. Captions, those time-honoured companions of the silent movie, are occasionally projected onto the translucent screen which separates audience and actors. The Reality TV Star’s laudably complex plot involved a committed but unattractive chef facing off against a media mogul’s beautiful protégée in a high-stakes cookery show.
Admittedly it got off to rather a slow start, with laughs being slightly fewer and farther between than either the audience or the performers would have liked. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to admire the talent, ingenuity and polish of all involved. If anything, the sheer quickness of thought and motion displayed by the actors will probably leave a few audience members behind: concentration is required to keep pace with the unfolding play. The caption device might be employed with greater frequency: in the instances where it is used it prompts a deal of hilarity from the audience.
As the plot was sustained and developed, both the audience and performers seemed to relax, taking time for a few more jokes and laughs. The acting-out of inanimate objects and even abstract concepts, from telephones and tears to thought bubbles and ‘tastegasms’ induced by the ugly chef’s fantastic dishes, were among the show’s most successful elements. A mention must also be made of Bugiardini’s piano player: shifts between major and minor, dramatic and comic, are rapid, seamless and endlessly appropriate.
Bugiardini are a fantastically talented group: they are able to develop ‘films’ onstage that are original and coherent without the slightest trace of hesitation or confusion. A little more clarity and humour early on would take them right over the top.